This post continues my history of WFRP1, which started here.
This post has been modified from its original form.
One of the most striking aspects of Warhammer‘s conception of Chaos is its obsession with physical mutation. This was present from very early on.
Asgard’s Creatures of Chaos had featured an array of physical deformities even before WFB1. Mutants had also appeared in the Reaper scenario Attack of the Fungoid Trolls*. So it is no surprise that mutated creatures of Chaos were present in the earliest Warhammer inserts (August 1983).
Every time a Warrior of Chaos kills a Human – the Chaos Gods send some helpers. These are the dread Chaos Beasts – abominable, distorted creatures, part human and part animal – often goat headed and with cloven feet.
– ‘The Quest for Chaos’
Chaos beasts appear to be the forerunners of beastmen, and shortly afterwards (November 1983) these creatures were mentioned by name.
Chaos pirates soon arrived, bizarre crews of Beastmen and strange mutants….
Walking down the street, a band of fly-clouded Beastmen might come, drunkenly lurching….
– ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’
The same insert also refers to another type of Chaos creature.
Turn a corner and perhaps step over a many tentacled [sic] Chaos Abomination; [sic] spewing bright pus from a hundred orifices….
There is, however, no detailed account of either of these creatures in the inserts. Their character is hinted at, but not described, and there are no game rules for them. We can guess that Chaos abominations are an early form of Chaos spawn, but there is very little to go on.
Chaotic creatures first received extended treatment in ‘The Mark of Chaos’ in the first Citadel Compendium (November 1983). That article details Warhammer‘s first random table of Chaos attributes, and refers to three types of Chaotic creature.
The first category is “Creatures of Chaos”. No specific examples are named, but they are described as having “a particular affinity with the darkness of Chaos and … a higher chance of Chaotic Attributes”.
Champions of Chaos are the second type of creature described as attracting Chaos attributes:
Those who ally themselves with the dark forces of Chaos can gain great power, but as their affinity with Chaos increases, their very body and soul may be distorted, until they are not even recognisable as human, [sic] this is simulated by gradually gaining Chaotic Attributes.
– op cit
The third type of Chaotic creature is Chaos spawn, which appear here for the first time:
Once a creature has more than 6 Chaotic Attributes, it will scarcely be recognisable as the species it once was. At the same time its mind and soul will have given themselves over entirely to their Chaos masters; it will not have a trace of sanity left.
Such sad beasts are Chaos Spawn, [sic] they roam in packs with others of their kind at the bidding of the Chaos Gods.
Favoured Champions of Chaos may be granted members of the Chaos Pack as bodyguards, steeds or beasts of burden; [sic] and as a reminder of what they may soon become!
‘The Mark of Chaos’ in the first Citadel Compendium
Beastmen did not feature in ‘The Mark of Chaos’. They were not described further until Forces of Fantasy (March 1984). Even there their description is brief, though it is interesting that they are referred to as mutated former humans, rather than a separate race.
Chaos Beastmen may be considered as a mess of bestial and ugly ex-humans.
– Forces of Fantasy, ‘Forces of Fantasy’, p40
Beastmen miniatures did not appear until even later (July 1984), when the C38 Chaos Beastmen range was first advertised.
C38 Chaos Beastmen
The range of miniatures showed that beastmen were envisaged as more varied than the goat-headed Chaos beasts. They encompassed a wide range of exotic forms, eg camel man, slug man, ostrich man, seahorse man, etc.
What was the origin of this fascination with Chaos mutations? Like so many aspects of Chaos in Warhammer, it is primarily derived from Michael Moorcock’s fiction.
Elric felt pity for the man, but he was not nauseated or horrified like Moonglum, for in his sorcery-working he had seen far worse creatures. It was as if the whole of one side of the spy’s body had become at one stage viscous, had flowed, and then coiled in a random shape. Side of head, shoulder, arm, torso, leg, all were replaced by streamers of flesh like rat’s tails, lumps of matter like swollen boils, weirdly mottled. The spy spread his good hand and some of the streamers seemed to jerk and wave in unison. Elric spoke quietly. “What magic wrought this drastic change?” A kind of chuckle came from the lopsided face. “I entered the Realm of Chaos, lord. And Chaos did this, it changed me as you see.”
– Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer, Book III, Chapter 2 (1963-1964 as novellas, 1965 as book)
“By Elric’s Sword!” Jhary groaned. “Those are the Chariots of Chaos. I should have guessed!”
Monstrous lumbering chariots drawn by reptilian beasts were beginning to emerge from the mist. They were filled by a variety of creatures, some even mounted on others’ backs. Each beast was a travesty of a human being — each was clad in armour and bore a weapon of some kind. Here were piglike, doglike, cowlike, froglike, horselike things, some more deformed than others — animals warped into parodies of humanity.
‘Did Chaos turn these beasts into what they are now?’ Corum gasped….
The King Without a Country spoke up. “These beasts,” he said, “were once men. Many of them were my subjects who sided with Chaos because they saw that it was more powerful than Law…”
“And that transformation was their reward?” Rhalina said in disgust.
“They are probably not aware of the transformation,” Jhary told her quietly. “They have degenerated too much. They retain little memory of their former existences.”
The black chariots creaked closer, bearing their grunting, shrieking, bellowing crews…. The Chaos pack howled in delight and whipped up their reptilian beasts and the chariots began to move faster. The ghastly, deformed army was enjoying the hunt…. The chariots rumbled on towards them, bringing the cacophony, the hellish once-human things, the nauseating smells.
– Michael Moorcock, The Queen of the Swords, Book II, chapter 4 (1971)
Without exception they were grotesque. Dwarves and midgets, giants and fat men, men with fur growing all over them (rather like Oladahn, save that the fur of these was un-pleasant to look upon), others pale and hairless, one man with three arms, another with one, two cloven-footed people – a man and a woman – children with beards, hermaphrodites with the organs of both sexes, others with mottled skins like snakes, and others with tails, misshapen limbs and warped bodies, faces with features missing or else abnormally proportioned; some hunchbacked, some without necks, some with foreshortened arms and legs, one with purple hair and a horn growing from his forehead. And only in their eyes was there any similarity, for every expression was one of dull despair as the bizarre band toiled to move the caravan a few feet through the wooded marsh.
It seemed that they were in hell and looked upon the damned.
– Michael Moorcock, The Jewel in the Skull, Book III, Chapter 2 (1967)
It is possible Warhammer also drew on other literary sources of inspiration. Tony Ackland has mentioned the influence of HP Lovecraft.
Whereas Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories were the main source of inspiration for Bryan, I leaned more towards HP Lovecraft.
– Tony Ackland, Realm of Chaos 80s
Ansell’s ‘The Duelling Circles of Khorne’ also contains echoes of Lovecraft, and its tentacled Chaos abominations would be at home alongside shoggoths or Elder Things.
The art of Hieronymus Bosch could also have been an influence, or even contemporary horror movies.
Moreover, in addition to literary sources, gaming ones in my opinion are also likely to have played a role. In particilar Law and Chaos featured prominently in RuneQuest (1st edition, 1978, and second edition, 1980) which even included a table for randomly generating “Chaotic features”.
Chaotic Features table, RuneQuest 2nd edition, p110
Many of this table’s features and even the nomenclature “Chaotic features” resemble Warhammer. There is less emphasis in physical deformities in RuneQuest and more on attribute changes and special powers, but the core ideas are very similar.
Beastmen also appear to have derived from RuneQuest.
Their roots were the Broo. There was just that much room to push things further under the Chaos name.
– Tony Ackland, comment on Facebook
Broo were a race of humanoid animal cross breeds in RuneQuest. Citadel already made licensed miniatures of Broo, and it is unsurprising that Warhammer absorbed them, given its aim to tie into existing miniatures ranges.
Citadel Broo (RuneQuest Box 4)
Back when Games Workshop had a licence from Chaosium to produce figures for RuneQuest and I had the job of creating the concepts. Bryan wanted something more radical than those that Chaosium had created. So we added the heads of elephants, crocodiles and some incorporated mixed features. Although Chaosium approved the concepts, I don’t recall any of the former two types being produced. When we created Warhammer, we did try and incorporate most of the figures Citadel produced in the rules. As chaos became more important, the larger the role that beastmen would play. But at that time there was no distinct plan. So the starting point had been the Broo, which originally had the heads of cattle, but from then on I pretty well ran with my ideas as they came to me.
– Tony Ackland, Realm of Chaos 80s
* I have not seen or read this supplement, but Zhu Bajiee has described it in his blog.
Title art by John Blanche. Used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.